By Deryck Kissoondath
Photos by Andrew Watson
For Jason Bay things couldn’t have lined themselves up in a more positive way than how this season has unfolded. Bay, who will be 35 in September, has taken on a very important veteran role on a young Seattle team. Believe it or not he has just surpassed his 10 year mark in the majors and is firmly proud of that achievement. Bay claims that “Things are a lot different to 10 years ago. I feel 35, but it is the evolution of a career, and I’m on the backside of it, the roles have changed but you adapt to it and I’m still enjoying it.”
After being released by the New York Mets last year Bay was thrilled to have the opportunity to play with Seattle for several reasons. “Number one is I live in Seattle and live 15 minutes from the ballpark so there are a lot of things for me that couldn’t be any better. I get to see my kids more and they can stay in school. You get to live more of a normal schedule and as you get older the family becomes more important. Before it used to be baseball all of the time but life evolves.”
He added “I lived in Seattle for 6 years but have never seen a summer so I hear a lot about it, but now I’m getting to see the best part of Seattle. Also, I’m closer to Trail, B.C., which means it is easier for my parents to come down and for us to see them at Christmas.”
At this stage in his career Bay is content and ready to take on a new role as a veteran on a young and talented team. Assuming the role of an experienced player can be a difficult thing for any player to do but Bay added “I’ve had a long time to digest it, if things work out or don’t work out, life goes on. I never set goals but getting to the big leagues especially coming from a town of 7,500 people, meant I had a lot going against me. Just getting here and staying for 10 years, everything else I’ve done is just icing on the cake.”
While other players have a difficulty accepting their role, especially a diminished role, Bay felt that “I never set out to play a certain amount or do this or that. I’ve had highs, lows, and ups and downs – you get to a point in your career where you are on the backside of it. I feel that I accept where I am and enjoy it. I’m doing it because I want to and I don’t have to prove anything to anybody. Whether I’m playing or not playing it is fun to be here with these guys and knowing my role and being okay with it. When I signed here I knew that was my role.” Even though Bay has only played in 64 games and had 196 at bats, he has still showed promise at the plate where he has hit 11 home runs and knocked in 20 runs. Considering the success of fellow veteran and Mariner, Raul Ibanez who is close to age 40, Bay should still feel that he has much left in the tank. Ibanez has hit 24 home runs and knocked in 56 runs in the first half of this season.
When asked about the success of the Seattle Mariners, compared to other teams that Bay could have been playing on he answered “I knew it coming in. We were a young team and they wanted a few veteran guys so they brought in Raul and I. By and large we are a very young team and no one had visions of us being 20 games over by now. We are a better team than our record shows. I had the opportunity to go to a few other places but I knew what I was getting into – we are building.”
According to Bay “Because we have a lot of young guys we have a very hungry atmosphere. Some of our players might not be as good as players on other teams, but their attitudes are great. I was that guy 7-8 years ago. Trying to establish yourself and set yourself up in this game for a long time. Lots of guys are getting opportunities and they recognize it and it is important.”
Bay, despite not being a speech type player feels that his experience and bonds that he creates will carry some of these players through some of the tough times. “I’ve been up and down and everywhere in between so I have experience to draw from. Fostering friendships and me grabbing a guy and saying do this and not that. One thing I really like about being here is the guys are comfortable about approaching me because they know that I’m receptive to them.
Manager Eric Wedge also has that faith in the veterans on his team as Bay said “He’s come to us and said “These are your guys, take charge and guys will follow you. If you have something to say, then say it because it means more coming from a player than a coach.” Bay felt that “He entrusted us with a lot of responsibility and guys have bought into it.”
Despite being in the majors for 10 years this is not the role that Bay prepared for prior to this season. When asked if he ever envisioned the veteran role he answered “You are caught up in what you are doing that you don’t think about it. But you can’t perform at the same level forever. I was focused at the time but never envisioned my role 5-6 years later. It is different but I like it.”
What does the future hold for Bay after this contract is over in September2013? “It was just one year – I have no answers. Being with the family and being at home – shows me just how much family means to me. I have the afforded luxury to wait and see. It would have to be pretty enticing situation for me to leave, to be away from my family again.”